Spoil­ing grand­chil­dren could lead to health woes

Evening Times - - NEWS - By TOM TOR­RANCE

LEAV­ING chil­dren with the grand­par­ents could turn them into over­weight smok­ers as adults with an in­creased risk of cancer, a new Glas­gow Univer­sity study shows.

They are over-in­dulged with cakes, bis­cuits and sweets and al­lowed to play video games or watch TV in­stead of run­ning about out­side, warn sci­en­tists.

Grand­par­ents also tend to smoke in front of them, ex­pos­ing them to se­cond hand fumes and mak­ing them more likely to pick up the habit as they get older.

The harm is un­in­ten­tional but is caus­ing ten­sion in fam­i­lies and pub­lic health cam­paigns are re­quired to ad­dress the is­sue, said the re­searchers.

Changes in so­cial con­di­tions – such as more women in the work­force, child­care costs and an in­crease in lone par­ent­ing – have led to an in­creased fo­cus on the role of grand­par­ents’ in chil­dren’s lives.

Lead au­thor Dr Stephanie Cham­bers, of the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, said: “From the stud­ies we looked at, it ap­pears par­ents of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cuss the is­sues of pas­sive smok­ing and over-treat­ing grand­chil­dren.

“Given many par­ents now rely on grand­par­ents for care, the mixed mes­sages about health chil­dren might be get­ting is per­haps an im­por­tant dis­cus­sion that needs to be had.”

Her team an­a­lysed 56 stud­ies with data from 18 coun­tries con­cern­ing the care pro­vided by grand­par­ents and found over­all they were in­ad­ver­tently hav­ing an ad­verse im­pact on young­sters’ health.

This was es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of weight and diet through ‘treat­ing’ and over­feed­ing and lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Grand­par­ents tend to be less en­er­getic, so are more likely to stay in the home with the chil­dren than take them out­side.

The re­view also iden­ti­fied prob­lems re­gard­ing tobacco smoke. Grand­par­ents were not com­ply­ing with par­ents’ wishes re­gard­ing sec­ond­hand smoke, and their im­por­tance as role mod­els not to in­dulge in un­healthy be­hav­iours.

Dr Cham­bers said: “While the re­sults of this re­view are clear that be­hav­iour such as ex­po­sure to smok­ing and reg­u­larly treat­ing chil­dren in­creases cancer risks as chil­dren grow into adult­hood, it is also clear from the ev­i­dence that these risks are un­in­ten­tional.

“Cur­rently grand­par­ents are not the fo­cus of pub­lic health mes­sag­ing tar­geted at par­ents and in light of the ev­i­dence from this study, per­haps this is some­thing that needs to change given the prom­i­nent role grand­par­ents play in the lives of chil­dren.”

She said many life­style pat­terns are es­tab­lished in child­hood. Dr Cham­bers added: “In the tobacco stud­ies re­viewed, grand­par­ents smoked around grand­chil­dren.”

Un­til now re­search has largely fo­cused on the po­ten­tial role of par­ents in con­tribut­ing to­wards risk fac­tors for dis­eases such as cancer.

But there has been lim­ited in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the role of grand­par­ents, and other part ti me care­givers.

The study pub­lished in PLOS One was fi­nanced by Cancer Re­search UK and aimed at iden­ti­fy­ing any po­ten­tial in­flu­ence grand­par­ents’ habits may have on their grand­chil­dren’s health.

Kids are be­ing over-in­dulged with cakes and sweets, a study warned

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